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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Still Operating Businesses?; Trump Defending Putin; Travel Ban Likely Heading to Supreme Court. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 6, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:02]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And President Trump said today any negative poll is fake news.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I almost enjoy the honesty of that tweet, because, frankly, look...

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: You're such a positive person.

(LAUGHTER)

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes, I am trying to be chipper.

Look, you can say, I think the polls are bad. I think the polls are broken. I think the polls can't be trusted. Those are valid statements to make. That's a debatable point.

Saying I only distrust the negative polls is not actually a position that is tenable. But, frankly, that's the position that he holds, so kudos to him for being at least honest about it.

I think there is a lot the polling industry needs to do to figure out how we can regain trust, how we can make sure that people believe numbers that we're putting out. But you can't just say only the negative polls are bad. That's not how it works.

TAPPER: And the same thing with the work we do. The negative stories, the unflattering stories are fake, he says.

CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, this is a pattern. Donald Trump is a president who needs an opponent. There is always an opponent. The polls is the opponent, the media is the opponent, whoever it is that is getting in his way, a judge is the opponent.

And that's the way he sees the world. And that's where a lot of this stuff is coming from.

TAPPER: You were talking about Republicans in Congress. The checks and balances that we have set up in the system, freedom of the press and the press being one of them, but also, of course, the judicial branch, which some people think is now under attack because of his comments about the judge, Judge Robart. There is a legislative branch. Are members of Congress afraid of him?

Do they think that they're next in terms of trying to undercut them?

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it depends on how popular he is. Members of Congress kind of go with the political winds.

His polls are down, and I think that's going to embolden members of Congress. We're going to see how strong our system is. We're going to see whether the checks and balances work. I have been tremendously encouraged by rulings like Judge Robart's. It shows that we have rule of law. That's what we pride ourselves on. But it's going to be tested.

LEE: I think it will be interesting to see how long Republicans can kind of -- you can almost see in your interview with Senator McConnell. They're just like -- they really -- he keeps putting them in these very uncomfortable positions.

TAPPER: Exactly. When McConnell came on the show, he just wanted to talk about Judge Gorsuch. From the time we booked the interview until the time we did the interview, there were 50 strains of crazy.

LEE: And there are a number of things you have seen Senator McConnell say where those of us in Washington can tell it's like McConnell's hair is on fire, even though it doesn't sound that way, because he is so subdued. And a number of things that Trump has said have led to that, including that.

TAPPER: Great panel.

Thanks for being here, one and all. Appreciate it.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz face off over the future of Obamacare as they take questions from a live audience. Tune it tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

As President Trump continues to defend Vladimir Putin, a former CIA director is now weighing in, questioning the affection between the two leaders.

That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:13]

TAPPER: Welcome back. I am Jake Tapper.

Turning now to our world lead, President Trump continues to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose political and journalistic critics have a curious habit of turning up dead, to say nothing of the blood on Putin's hands for various incursions into Ukraine and Syria.

This time, Mr. President Trump not only expressed respect for his Russian counterpart, but seemed to equate United States' actions with those of the authoritarian regime.

This is drawing fire and prompting all sort of skeptical reactions. Former CIA acting Director Mike Morell told CBS -- quote -- "I think President Trump has some special affection for Putin that is as a result of something that we don't fully understand."

Let's bring in chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, President Trump's response seeming to equate the U.S. and Putin, to be honest, it's the kind of statement that one usually hears on a propaganda outlet like R.T., something owned by the Russian government.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, it's a time-worn tactic of then Soviet and now Russian propagandists.

It even has a name. It's called whataboutism. When you criticize a government, and same with China, Russia the same, about something, they say, what about a mistake your country has made in the past? Time-worn. You expect it from Moscow. You don't expect it so much from an American president here.

And once again, the American president, Donald Trump, at odds with his own party on these comments. Listen to Senator Ben Sasse earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: Putin is an enemy of freedom of religion. The U.S. celebrates freedom of religion. Putin is an enemy of the free press. The U.S. celebrates free press.

Putin is an enemy of political dissent. The U.S. celebrates political dissent and the right for people to argue free from violence about places where ideas are in conflict. There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America, the greatest freedom-loving nation in the history of the world, and the murderous thugs that are in Putin's defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: I spoke with the Republican senator this afternoon who told me, Jake, that his hope is that, over time, over the weeks and months of being in the White House, that President Trump will see the great care that America takes to avoid those kinds of things, speaking, for instance, specifically of not bombing civilians deliberately in Syria and Aleppo, which we know Russia does.

And, of course, U.S. airstrikes might kill civilians, but you and I know how the many steps that the U.S. military goes to avoid it. There's a big difference between doing it deliberately and accidentally. That's just being one example of, again, where Republicans have very sharp differences with the president on this.

TAPPER: Including some in his own administration. And there are people in his administration who seem to be suggesting that the United States is going to come down hard on Russia when it comes to its continued, renewed incursions into Ukraine through these pro-Russian separatists.

SCIUTTO: That's right.

You heard Vice President Mike Pence say today that the White House, the U.S. will be watching Russia in Eastern Ukraine. Of course, you heard Nikki Haley, who spoke about that last week at the U.S. Security Council, sounding a bit like Samantha Power, saying we're watching in very strong terms, not diplomatic at all.

[16:40:08]

TAPPER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Now you have a report out that Mike Flynn is even going to push for the NATO membership of Montenegro, another country, small country, former Yugoslavia, but one -- an entrance into NATO that Russia firmly opposes.

So, the question is, do the public comments of President Trump reflect the policy or do these other comments and possible moves? And the truth is, we don't know the answer to that question.

TAPPER: Fascinating stuff.

Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

Has President Donald Trump left businessman Donald Trump behind? The new documents that show he might still be making money while making decisions for America.

Also, vandalism and violence. Is anti-Semitism on the rise in America?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking with our world lead, President Trump defended the travel ban a short time ago during his first visit to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida. The president vowed to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: To these forces of death and destruction, America and its allies will defeat you. We will defeat them. We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism and we will not allow it to take root in our country. We're not going to allow it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR AND WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: An eye-opening piece in the New York Times explores how previous terrorist attacks around the world considered lone-wolf attacks were actually facilitated by ISIS through cyber space.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Quote, "Once you have found the car look at the front right tire. You'll find the keys placed on top. Open it and retrieve the bag." This is just one of the chilling messages sent to new ISIS recruits from the terror group's virtual mentors thousands of miles away according to the New York Times. In a recent report, Journalist Rukmini Callimachi shows, that not all of these so-called lone wolf attacks were in fact by lone wolves. She found that terrorists using encrypted apps and explicit instructions to expand their reach from Syria and Iraq to online followers around the world.

RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: They basically just reach over the internet into our communities and then - and then almost like a puppeteer pulling the strings of a puppet, they maneuvered that person towards the attack. They will sometimes provide everything down to the bullets that the person needs to use to kill victims.

TAPPER: Officials and Analysts are not describing these actions as ISIS-directed or ISIS-inspired. They're known instead, as ISIS- enabled plots. Such as the one carried out in a Bangladesh cafe last year that left 22 dead. And the 2015 shooting in Garland, Texas, where the would-be terrorists were killed. For ISIS, these are cheaper, easier directives often discovered only after the suspects are caught. Interrogation transcripts obtained by the New York Times provide a trove of details.

CALLIMACHI: These are interrogation transcripts that show both what the attackers - who survived the attacks said to police, and also, detailed reports of what was found on their smartphones and on their laptops.

TAPPER: In 2014, ISIS sought to enable an attack in Hyderabad, India. Indian investigators said the ISIS recruit, later detailed 17 months of instructions from virtual plotters.

CALLIMACHI: The ISIS handler who we now know was sitting in Syria, arranged for several drops of weapons and chemicals that were going to be used in this attack, and they were left in locations that ranged from a tree to a package that was to be left next to a railroad track, to an overpass, to a canal.

TAPPER: Intelligence officials continue to hone in on this new trend in terror, hoping to foil more plots before they're carried out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Today's "MONEY LEAD", now. Exactly what has President Trump done since taking office to separate himself from the global business empire he built. You'll recall his stacks of folders in a news conference days before his inauguration. President Trump and his lawyer, insisting that documents inside showed that his efforts to transfer entities of the Trump Organization to his adult sons and a financial officer had been made. Reporters were not permitted to look inside those files. In today's addition of conflict of interest watch, new documents revealed by ProPublica may show us what President Trump did not. CNN's Cristina Alesci joins me now. And Cristina, what did ProPublica dig up?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN AND CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it essentially showed that Trump is still very much the boss. He has the final say when it comes to his companies. The trust, which those documents outline, creates another legal layer, but it's questionable of it resolves the issue of conflicts. These documents shed light on Donald Trump's trust, the one housing his business interests.

The two takeaways here, the trust is for the exclusive benefit of President Trump. That means, he makes or loses money from his companies. Also, worth noting, President Trump can revoke the trust. That's the second part that's highlighted there. Remember that, President Trump said he'll continue to receive profit and loss statements for the companies. So, he decides that his trustees aren't running the business well. Well then, he'll just tear up the arrangement. At least he has the power to do so.

TAPPER: Let me - so, to just to try to understand this. He's not making day-to-day decisions, but these documents mean, he still retains power over his companies and he's still making money from them. What do ethics lawyers have to say about this arrangement given the discovery of these documents by ProPublica?

[16:49:29] ALESCI: They're essentially, the once that we spoke to today. Anyway, calling it window dressing and that the documents prove that there is no real separation between Trump and his businesses. And essentially, that's what Democrats say too. In fact, the top Democrat on the house oversight committee called the documents smoke and mirrors. And Jake, a real-world test is coming up for President Trump. Remember, the Trump organization leases a building for - leases the building for his D.C. hotel from the federal government.

Now, the lease technically bars elected officials from being party to that arrangement. So, the Federal Agency overseeing the lease; the General Services Administration, must decide whether this trust arrangement that we just talked about, creates that separation between Trump and his businesses. But here's another possible conflict, Trump appoints the head of the agency. So, the person that's going to be making the call essentially will be appointed by the President.

Now, Trump hasn't appointed that person yet, but Democrats are pressing the GSA to make a call on whether President Trump is violating the lease. And today, is the deadline for the agency to provide some clarity around this, Jake. And I'm watching to see if the Dems get some answers. So, far I spoke to several. They haven't heard anything from the GSA, just yet.

TAPPER: All right. Cristina Alesci, for conflict of interests watch. Thank you so much. Internationally, the anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism including bomb-threats, rocking Jewish Community Centers across the country. Are they connected at all? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:25] TAPPER: We're back with the "BURIED LEAD". That's what we call stories that we feel are not getting enough attention. And today, it's two attempts by government entities to beat back efforts to combat political corruption.

Yesterday the government of Romania backed down from a decree that would have decriminalized certain corrupt behaviors by Romanian politicians. After days of massive public demonstrations, the Romanian government last night, withdrew the decree. No such luck in South Dakota, where there are also protests.

An anti-corruption referendum that passed in November was repealed last month by the legislature in an emergency move. Here you see, Protesters at the Capitol building in Pierre. The now dead measure, would have created an independent ethics commission and curbed lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. Last week, the governor of South Dakota signed the repeal bill, saying the public had been hood-winked by scam artist whom misrepresented the proposal. One group behind the referendum called the repeal, a bold power grab - flagrantly defying the will of voters.

In our "NATIONAL LEAD". Now, A spate of troubling anti-Semitic incidents over the last few weeks; from bomb-threats to Nazi-themed vandalism. In New York City over the weekends, swastikas and Nazi slogans were squalled on the subway. In Chicago, surveillance video shows a man vandalizing a synagogue. In Houston, a swastika was drawn in bright-colored chalk on the base of the founder statue at Rice University. In the last few weeks, dozens of Jewish Community Centers across the country had faced bomb threats. Brynn Gingrass is in New York City, covering this. Brynn, do authorities think any of these incidents were linked?

BRYNN GINGRASS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT BASED IN NEW YORK: Well, no line to connect the dots just yet, Jake. And I have to say, some people we've talked to about this, they don't even want to make this political. But we've also been talking to the anti-defamation league, a leader from the North American JCC, authorities here in New York City, and they tell us all the same thing.

There're certainly an uptick in the amount of anti-Semitic crimes being reported right now, in really within the last month. Now Jake, as we get along, you just mentioned a whole bunch of them in which we saw an outbreak of incidents in multiple cities. Again, in Chicago, police are trying to track down the person - this person, who they believe broke out synagogue windows and placed swastika decals on the temple's front door.

Now, go to Houston, in Texas, Rice University officials, they found Nazi symbol written in chalk under the name Trump on the statue in the campuses' quad. And Jewish Community Centers, all across the country, well, they're dealing with a rash of bomb-threats being called in not just this weekend but, really, for the last month. Get this, 65 threats made to dozens of JCCs in 26 states. Now, in one

of those threats, in Minnesota, about 500 people were inside the Center from senior citizens, all the way as young to infants. And look at this picture. It's so sad. Look at the cribs that had to be wheeled outside as the Center followed its evacuation protocol. A Director at the Center told CNN that this is, "the new normal for them."

Now, Federal Authorities have opened a probe into those calls. But as a leader with the anti-defamation league noted on "NEW DAY" this morning, the technology that caller or callers are using in this case is providing an obstacle for authorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ETZION NEUER, ADL COMMUNITY SERVICE & POLICY DIRECTOR: Technology which masks the caller, it's - and - so you can't hear - it distorts the voice. But also, technology which spoofs the phone number. So, when the calls are received by the JCCs it looks as if the calls are coming from with inside the building.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRASS: Now, it is worth noting, all of those calls, so far, have turned out to be hoaxes. Well, here's some empowering news with all of these hate crime reports this weekend. I want you to look at these images posted on social media from a rider on the New York City subway. Passengers noticed the swastika drawings and anti-Semitic words on advertisements. Well, one person remembered, hey, alcohol helps get sharpie out. So, riders banded together. They used tissues and hand sanitizer, and started scrubbing the subway car to get rid of all of that graffiti. And Jake, I talked to one of those riders who told me he hopes that this is a perfect example of what we have to do, come together, fight this, and resist this hate. Jake.

[16:59:27] TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingrass, thank you so much. Appreciate it. A reminder that tomorrow, you'll hear from Senators; Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Ted Cruz of Texas. They will debate the future of Obamacare. Here - to hear perspectives from Democrats and Republicans over what may happen to the program in addition to questions from moderators; me and Dana Bash. Senators Sanders and Cruz, will also take questions from a live audience - people affected positively and adversely by Obamacare. Again, that's tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll turn you over to my friend, Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.